Saturday, February 7, 2015

Far from Paris, Yann finds Canoe Island

Former camper Yann Dardonville, who will be a volunteer this summer, reflects on his six summers as a camper 
at Canoe Island French Camp. Here is his story:

My name is Yann Dardonville! Although I’m a Parisian native, I have lived in Seattle since I was 3 years old. I had the great pleasure of attending Canoe Island for 6 years--from 2009 to 2014--and can now call myself a proud “first-generation alum”.

Being raised in a French-speaking household (both of my parents are French), I've had the great fortune of growing up bilingual. But in a region like Seattle where French culture and language is scarce, it has been difficult to keep my roots firmly planted in my native land. That’s why I consider myself so lucky to live near Canoe Island: It’s a French-American transplant in the Pacific Northwest. Being able to connect with French counselors and spend a few weeks every summer consolidating my French helped bring me back to my culture and build new bridges to France (as well as other countries) that I would not have had otherwise. Every time I would come home from camp, my accent would have improved and I would speak more fluently. I credit Canoe for keeping me interested and passionate about France.

This was only one part of my Canoe experience, however. Spending two to three weeks in such a small and tight-knit community on a wonderful island made me feel comfortable trying new things. I remember, for example, sitting on a mossy patch at my first Inspiration Point circle, surrounded by people I had only known for a week, and getting the idea that I could write a song to perform at the end of camp. I had always liked singing, but I had never thought about writing songs. One week later, I performed my song at the “Jacques Martin show” in front of my newfound friends, and ever since then, I have pursued my hobby of songwriting and performing seriously. I now perform music at a restaurant in Seattle and perform on the street at farmer’s markets! I know that without the amazing support provided by the camp community, and the wonderful natural environment, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love of writing music as early as I did. Canoe is not just about learning French, it’s about learning who you are as a person and feeling comfortable expressing yourself.

My experience at Canoe can only be described by the epithet, “Canoe magic”. I call it magic because it is so hard to explain and denote all the ways this camp has changed me for the better. I think this magic was what the camp’s founder, Dr. Austin, had in mind when he started it: He wanted kids to come out of the camp with a greater appreciation for French culture and the world around them. He understood that in order to do so, he needed to create the special environment found on the environment today.
This environment is something that must be upheld, so I ask all of the members of the CIFC community to join me in supporting the island by donating to the camp. In doing so, you will be helping to provide for campers to have great experiences like the ones I and many others have had. My camp experience is something that completely changed my life, and I hope that many other campers will get to live the same thing I did. 

Yann Dardonville - December 2014

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